The Heart of Recovery ~ Part 2

Part 2 of a series called The Heart of Recovery.

In my previous post, The Heart of Recovery ~ Part 1, I began to explore the role we play when we have an ADULT addict in our family circle.

Using the word HEART as an acrostic I began with “H”.

H – HOLD onto your addiction to their addiction no more.

Today I want you to consider if you may be an Enabler…an enabler to your ADULT ADDICT?


Don’t you just cringe when you hear this word?


E – ENABLE no more….

Oh, when I would hear that I might be an enabler my hair would stand on end. I would think, “What do you mean? I am not an enabler!”

It has taken me a long time to understand what that means.

When family or friends “Help” an alcoholic or drug addict they may actually be making it easier for them to continue in the progression of the disease.

Enabling is a perplexing phenomenon. It takes on various forms, but all have the same effect – our behavior allows the addict to avoid the consequences of his/her actions. In other words…they are not held accountable.

The addict learns that no matter what, they can continue there drinking or drugging ways, knowing that no matter how destructive their behavior is you will rescue them.

What is the difference between helping and enabling?

There are many opinions and viewpoints on this, but here is a simple description:

Helping is doing something for someone that they are not capable of doing themselves. Enabling is doing for someone things that they could, and should be doing themselves.

Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which the alcoholic or addict can comfortably continue his unacceptable behavior.

For example, years ago my husband and I were visiting San Francisco. As we walked down the sidewalk I noticed an elderly lady exit a hotel. One of her orthopedic shoes was untied. I stopped and told my husband to hold on and I’d be right back. He smiled and said, “I know where you are going. You are going to go tie that lady’s shoe.”

Ha! He knows me too well! I never could have lived with myself if she tripped over that shoelace!

I stopped her and pointed out her shoe was untied. When she looked down, her expression was as if her feet were 100 miles away.

I tied her shoe.

Was I enabling her? No.

But if she was an able body person…Yes.

Enabling…Helping…know the difference.

Are you an enabler? I know I am or rather I WAS.

Here are a few questions that might help you determine the difference between helping and enabling an alcoholic or addict in your life:


  1. Called the alcoholic/ addict in “sick”, lying about his/her symptoms?
  2. Partially or completely blamed yourself for his/her drinking/drugging or behavior?
  3. Evaded the subject of their drinking or drugging out of fear of the response?
  4. Loaned money…and never seen it again?
  5. Paid their bail, legal fees, or car impoundment costs?
  6. Paid their bills since there is no money left after drinking/drugging?
  7. Given “one more chance” and “one more chance” and “one more chance” and…
  8. Said you were leaving or making them leave…to only still be there?
  9. Completed their work or project?

Did you answer YES to any of these? Most of these?

We Enablers are helping, helping them to avoid their responsibilities.

Ask yourself, “Am I contributing to the problem, all in what I thought was an effort to “help”?

If yes, do NOT sit there and beat yourself up over it.

Learn from it and ask Christ to give you the strength to know the difference between helping and enabling.

As long as the addict has his problems solved by you, there is no incentive for the addict to seek sobriety.

When the addict spends all of the money on drinking/drugging and the bills cannot be paid, what are you to do?

Let the lights or water be turned off? Now that is a hard question.

Sure the addict will suffer with no lights or water, but so does the family. So what to do?

You may have to make the hard decision to take the children to a shelter, to family or friends and let the addict sit alone in the dark.

Difficult choices.

Eventually the addict must face the consequences of his own actions.

Oh that sounds so easy you say…how does one go about doing that?

You need to establish boundaries. Learn when you are helping and when you are enabling.

It is within my very being to be a helper. I am a nurse. I love to help others.

“Lord, show me when I am enabling and when I am truly being helpful.”

A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron. (Proverbs 27:17 TLB)

So what are the next steps?

A – Admit/Accept they are an addict…

In Part 3 of this series I will be discussing what this means.

Have you found this post to be of value?

Do you know of someone who might benefit from reading this or another one of my writings about our Lord?

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Blessings, Susan

Susan Werthem is a Bible study leader, speaker and author.

She takes the Word of God and shares His truth in a humorous, unique and insightful way.

To contact Susan to plan a retreat or seminar Click here.

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